2017 Arizona Fall League Rosters Announced

Jay Yencich · August 29, 2017 at 3:22 pm · Filed Under Minor Leagues 

It says something, either about my habits, or attitudes towards the present season, or suspect mental state that I would have already narrowed down probable dates for Arizona Fall League rosters to be released to this Wednesday. And hey, what do you know? Headlined by first-round pick of yesteryear, center fielder Kyle Lewis, the Mariners will be sending eight players to fall ball. Joining Lewis will be RHPs Matthew Festa, Darin Gillies, Max Povse, and Art Warren, catcher Joe DeCarlo, utility man Eric Filia, and center fielder Braden Bishop. You may notice here that the AFL roster selection rules seem to have changed because that’s a lot of Cal League representation, if not currently, then earlier in the year. They’ll also have Yoel Monzon as a pitching coach on the staff, presently the pitching coach for the Peoria Mariners. Heck, he may not even bother with cleaning out his locker.

Lewis is probably where most people would start out, and rightly so. The 22-year-old probably still holds onto his spot as the system’s top prospect on athletic potential alone, but if you know the name, then it’s likely you also have a grasp on the history: A collision at the plate due to the catcher blocking the lane– the same type of collision now banned in the majors– resulted in him blowing out his ACL as well as his medial and lateral meniscus. For a guy who was hoped to be a centerfielder, that’s a big blow. Lewis didn’t get game action until June and then almost immediately banged up his knee again trying to play all-out defense on a play, and then disappeared for a couple of weeks. For much of the season, he’s been locked into the DH position to curb any Chris Snelling-like tendencies to hurt himself doing too much, but between the injuries and limited on-field performances, we’re only just now hitting a sample size in Modesto equal to what he had in Everett. August has been a lackluster month for him in the box as well, with an OPS in the mid-.600s, even as he is finally getting an opportunity to run around and play in the outfield. There are really two cases to be made here, the one that hopes that Lewis stands a better chance of getting back on track with rest and time, and the other that wants to see sustained offensive development. That being said, I’m not too surprised to see him here.

The second-greatest prospect of intrigue would probably be Braden Bishop. The one thing about having Bishop and Lewis on the same roster is that if they end up in the same outfield, whatever pressures are on Lewis to defend are scaled back dramatically. Based on .gifs and minor league video I’ve seen, Braden Bishop has a tendency to play defense as if he’s the only outfielder on staff and will routinely come out of nowhere to make plays. People have talked about him as a potential Gold Glove out there, perhaps in the Kevin Pillar mold, but for much of the season what we’ve talked about is Bishop’s offense. In college, he was a slap hitter, and a slap hitter he remained starting out. This past year, he trained in the offseason with fellow former Husky Jake Lamb and appears to have gotten stronger and is coming at the plate with a different setup. Baseball Census has an excellent side-by-side comparison of his two seasons in the Cal League and it’s my opinion that Bishop has probably done more to solidify his prospect status this year than anyone else in the system. The beauty of his skill set is that he can add a lot of value with the glove alone, but any increase however incremental in his hitting abilities means more stretch-doubles and runs scored. I could see him contributing, maybe not next year, but 2019 seems like a reasonable estimate.

Between Bishop and Lewis, those are two prospects that you’re potentially going to have in the top five, locked for the top ten minimum. Where Povse slots may depend on your opinion of him and how he’s used, but he may be a top ten as well by some reckoning and will retain rookie status headed into 2018. One of the stories of earlier in the summer was that Jerry DiPoto had the clever idea that the Mariners bullpen needed a Chris Devenski, a guy who could do short to medium relief and fill in innings with strikeout potential. Povse was initially tabbed as that guy and fast-tracked into debuting in late-June. Of course, since then, the Mariners have seen the emergence of another pitcher who can fill a similar role in Emilio Pagan, who has not started games in the minor leagues at all. Taking the pressure off Povse to be that guy may be good, as he’s the 6’8″, long-limbed Tall Wall who has had some difficulty getting his mechanics in order. As a reliever, the need for extra pitches would be minimized, but the boom-and-bust of “some days he has it and some days he doesn’t” is magnified, and moreover the team needs starting pitching in a bad way at the moment. For Tacoma, Povse has made three of his last four appearances as a starter and the most recent two embody that intriguing potential of his and the accompanying risk. One outing was four and two-thirds frames of no-hit ball with a 7/1 K/BB, the next, four frames with two runs allowed on three hits, a hit batter, two walks, and four strikeouts. It’ll be hard not to take what role he’s used in the AFL as indicative of Something, but give precedence to what’s said about him.

After Povse, who has already pitched in the majors, Festa might be the next closest. Festa was the smaller of our D-II selections in the first ten rounds of last year, but the stuff is very much real and he tops out at 96 mph. The repertoire is also deep enough to handle multiple innings, but then this is one of multiple notes about him that really make you stop and look at his statline and think, “wait, what?” The 24-year-old has kind of been a sleeper due to age and expectations, but he’s thrown 66.2 innings in thirty-nine appearances and over that span has a 96/19 K/BB. No, those aren’t typos, that’s nearly a K and a half every inning and a walk maybe every three or more. Given all the other happenings in system, the Mariners have demonstrated remarkable restraint in not pushing him to double-A. Still, he’s one guy that I wouldn’t be surprised to see next season, even if ideally, we won’t have to make as many calls out that direction as we have this year.

Speaking of interesting statlines and modest draft profiles, we also have another recent (current, actually) Modesto Nut on the roster in Eric Filia. You may know the story here, but to refresh, he had taken some time away from school and came back to UCLA looking like a bonafide prospect. The slugging this year has been lower than where he was in Everett, but he remains very difficult to strike out and has only done so about every eleven ABs this season. This leaves him as the rare bird with a lop-sided K/BB at 42/63. While some players with elite plate discipline end up going on to develop power later in their careers, such has not yet been the case for Filia, who has fewer dingers in the Cal League than he did in the NWL and in far more plate appearances. Putting aside the offensive profile aspects, the eye-catcher here is his listing as an infielder. Filia has played the outfield corners in the past, but has been increasingly seeing time at first. While he does swing lefty, the fact that he throws right-handed opens up more options for him on the field as a utility player. If Filia manages to show as much defensive versatility as say, a Danny Valencia, or worst-case, first and the corners, that still opens up more options for him where the bat can continue to do what it does well, namely slap the ball around. He’s another guy who has a fun little Baseball Census profile, so give that a look as well.

Warren has served as an off-and-on closer for Nuts and also boasts about a K per inning in his pitching lines. Yet, the advanced metrics don’t like him all that much. Statcorner has him in the red with a nBB% of 11 and a K% of 24, and that helps to explain some of it, as does the fact that Warren gives up hits a bit more readily. I know I’ve been plugging them a bit in this post, but I think it’s deserved because I wouldn’t really know much about Warren had I not read yet another Baseball Census profile on him. The story is fairly similar to any other you’d expect to find in spring training: A changed diet, a changed workout regiment, BSohL. These would be platitudes without the results, which Warren has, having gone from a high-80s starter to a low-to-mid-90s reliever. Like Festa, the arsenal is deeper than average as well. I’m wanting to see better command before I’m totally comfortable with him as a potential contributor.

For DeCarlo… well, one more Modesto Nut, one more guy you can find info on online? DeCarlo’s was one of the Mariners-like picks that I had grown accustomed to in that he was a second selection as a big-bodied prep infielder who played short in the past but hey so did Jim Thome when he was in high school. In DeCarlo’s case, he’s been following the same track as fellow farmhand Marcus Littlewood, another kid drafted at short who had good instincts and not-great wheels until the organization decided to try him out as a backstop. And why convert one shortstop to the Tools of Ignorance when you could convert TWO? Part of this is representative of a dearth in organization depth spurring the move. DeCarlo doesn’t look great out there yet. In forty-six defensive games, eighteen passed balls and a 26% CS rate. Yet he’s also doing an entirely new thing and his offense, while suffering, has not cratered, with a loss in average almost entirely accounting for the drops in OBP, SLG, and OPS. What’s been good about DeCarlo as a minor leaguer is that, while he doesn’t have the tools to hit for high-average, he absolutely can take walks and hit for power now and then. The secondary averages, as such, have been solid despite a high-K rate. More reps can only help him, yet I don’t find myself thinking that he’s a risk to be Rule 5’d just yet because of the SSS and lack of time in the high minors. We’ll muse on that next year, depending on how he takes.

Our last but not least is Darin Gillies, which is one R and two Ls for your reference there. Gillies is not much written about, being the guy in the tenth round of 2015 whom they threw $10k at in the hopes of saving top ten pool money elsewhere. That being said, you wouldn’t expect him to be in double-A and holding his own, and yet he is. Gillies has been on an aggressive track, but it’s double-A that has presented something of a challenge for him. Whereas last year, he had a .186 combined average and a 75/18 K/BB through 66.2 innings, he’s now at a .229 average against and a 44/24 K/BB in 56.2 innings in double-A. That’s not as impressive, but again, our data is limited. We know he was at ASU and in and out of the bullpen for his four years there. We know that he threw 90 mph or so in HS. If nothing else, the AFL selects for the willing, but Gillies may be a guy that we soon have more data on, and more data is always welcome.

The season will commence on October 10th, as the Javelinas play a day game against the Desert Dogs.


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